Malfoy moves slowly as he closes the door behind himself, leaning back against it and fixing Harry with a look that seems to ask, "Now what?"
"Er," is all Harry manages, unsure how to answer Malfoy's unspoken question. Malfoy's eyes drift down to his bare chest then to the shirt in his hand. Feeling oddly sensitive to his state of undress under Malfoy’s examination, he forces himself to refrain from covering up like a blushing maiden.
"I usually shower when I get back," he offers as an explanation. After another uncomfortable minute with Malfoy's stare, he tugs the sweaty shirt back over his head. He fails to stop his blush at Malfoy's raised eyebrow, and hastens to add, "You, uh, you go ahead and shower first though. I'll make us dinner. …I guess."
Malfoy just scoffs quietly in response and pushes away from the front door, pausing just before the carpet beyond the entryway to peel off his shoes. Harry is certain that they're a battered pair of women's loafers and he bites his tongue to keep from asking about them. When he looks up again, Malfoy glares.
More than uncomfortable now, he quickly says, "I'll, er, get you something to change into," and then escapes into his bedroom.
He's lived in the flat for almost a year but has yet to purchase dresser. His clothes are merely in piles on the floor: one clean, the other dirty. It had never mattered much to him before but now he grimaces at the sight, embarrassed. Perhaps he'll get lucky and Malfoy won't ever see his bedroom. At least he bothered to keep his robes hung nicely in the closet.
He digs through the clean pile until he finds an old Dudley shirt. It's too big for him even now, will probably swallow Malfoy like a nightgown, but it'll have to do. He almost grabs a pair of his pants out of habit but then jerks his hand back quickly and snags some pajama bottoms instead. The thought of Malfoy wearing his pants…
Strangely, it doesn't evoke a shudder like he expected.
Malfoy hasn't moved from the entryway when Harry returns. He does hesitantly take one step forward when Harry holds up the clothes, but then eyes Harry suspiciously for a long while. Harry has to resist the urge to roll his own eyes—does Malfoy think this is a childish trap or something?
"A bleeding heart Gryffindor," Malfoy murmurs and then cautiously closes the distance between them, eyes still on Harry even as he delicately takes the offered shirt and pajama bottoms. He winces as he moves his left arm, though only slightly. Harry notices anyway.
"Uh, yeah, well, the shower's in there," Harry says needlessly, motioning to the bathroom. "Don't worry about your, er, robes. I'll put them in with the laundry later." Or the trash.
As with before, Malfoy just stares at him for a while, enough to make him uncomfortable all over again.
"A bleeding heart Gryffindor," Malfoy repeats, as if he's still trying to make sense of that one statement, and then finally steps around Harry to go into the bathroom.
The bathroom door closes with a soft click, and Harry's shoulders sag in relief as he sighs—only to tense up again as he wonders what he could possibly make for dinner from the almost bare food supply in his cabinets.
One hurdle down, he thinks wearily, and the next a higher jump.
Malfoy's presence in his flat is almost tangible in the air. Harry spends most of the night tossing and turning, waking up hourly. It's as though he can feel Malfoy sleeping on the other side of his bedroom wall—an unexpected but not altogether threatening invasion of his den—and he swears he can hear Malfoy breathing.
Dawn's arrival finds him already tiptoeing through his morning routine, forcing himself to not wander into the living area until he absolutely has to. When he finally does, his eyes immediately go to the unmoving form that has taken over his couch.
Malfoy has wrapped himself in the blanket that Harry had provided like a newborn rodent would curl in its mother's nest. His hair tufts out the top of the cotton roll, now back to silver blond without the grease and grime to muck it. It must have taken a lot of soap to get it that way because Malfoy had spent so long in the shower that Harry had wondered if he planned to sleep in the bathroom.
At least that one part of Malfoy was back to normal. The rest… Well, even the width of the old Dudley shirt hadn't hid his skinny limbs and jutting bones. If anything, it had made him look worse. During dinner the night before, the shirt neckline had hung over so sharp a shoulder that Harry had been certain the bone would poke through the paper-thin skin. Yet, despite appearing positively starved, Malfoy had only taken a few sips of Harry's quickly prepared chicken noodle soup. He hadn't touched any of the solid noodles or vegetables or even the chicken.
Maybe, Harry supposes, it had been too much for him all at once.
Or maybe Harry was simply bad at cooking. The Dursleys hadn't exactly had refined palates.
Harry only approaches the couch when he cannot delay leaving for training any longer. Malfoy jerks his face free the blanket when Harry touches his shoulder. His expression is carefully guarded but he looks exhausted, like he has been awake all night too, simply lying there and listening. Some corner of Harry's mind laughs at them both being too afraid to sleep near one another.
When he reaches into his pocket, he doesn't miss Malfoy's tension at the action, or the relief that follows when all he pulls out is a simple brass key. His eyes momentarily dart to Malfoy's blanket-concealed, likely injured arm.
"This is my spare," he explains quietly after a moment. Holding the key up for Malfoy to take, he continues, "It's connected to my wards so you can come and go as you need. I made a sandwich for you for lunch. It's on the counter with a freshening charm, but there's other stuff in the kitchen if you want to look for something else. The leftover soup is in the refri— In the tall white cabinet. You just have to take the preserving charm off it. …Okay?"
Malfoy merely continues the guarded stare, neither answering nor taking the offered key. With a small sigh, Harry places the key on the coffee table and then turns to leave.
At the door, he hears a soft rustle and looks back to see that Malfoy has extended an arm out of the blanket nest to take the key; long, bony fingers wrap around it almost tenderly.
The corner of Harry's mouth twitches up.
Harry sets his lunch tray next to Ron's on the table. "Not Diagon today?"
Ron gives him a dramatic eye roll and says in a whiny voice that Harry's heard him use to imitate Hermione many a time, "It's too cold," which promptly earns him a slap to the shoulder from the mocked female.
"There's nothing wrong with wanting to keep warm while you eat," Hermione huffs, and as soon as the words leave her mouth, a sad look comes over her—one that is immediately mirrored by Ron. It's enough to let Harry know that he's not the only one who still occasionally thinks of their extended camping trip.
"S'fine," Harry says. He grins at them both in hopes of lightening the mood. "The cafeteria isn't crowded today. Guess everyone's starting their fall holidays."
Hermione gives him a grateful smile and, to change the subject, prompts, "Ron said Malon held you back?"
"Yeah. He wanted to ask about Malfoy some more," Harry sighs.
"Oh, that's right. You mentioned this morning that you ran into him yesterday?"
"Yeah," Ron snorts, still chewing his bite of sandwich as he continues, "and Harry had to save his arse from being hexed by some shoppers. Then he sat in our waiting hall all afternoon, creeping out the receptionist."
"He came back to the Ministry with you?" Hermione asks, frowning.
"Well, he didn't really have anywhere else to go…" Harry starts hesitantly, only to be cut off by Ron.
"'Course he came back with us! You know what a coward Malfoy is. He wasn't going to stay in Diagon Alley, not with everyone yelling at him." Ron mimics his mother's disappointed head shake—improves at it a little more every time, Harry thinks. "Ferret looked cornered."
Harry recalls the way Malfoy had pressed up against the Flourish & Blotts window, and the tender way he'd touched his arm, how he'd cradled it the night before as he watched Harry set a bowl of soup on the table. Cornered indeed. How badly had Malfoy been injured anyway?
"What do you suppose he does now?" Hermione asks, dabbing primly at her mouth with a napkin. "He didn't return to Hogwarts to repeat seventh year like Neville and I. It's possible that he did private study, but I didn't see him during N.E.W.T.s, though at the time I imagined that that was due to his—to his mother's death." A brief flash of pity crosses her face before she continues. "He lives near Diagon then? Where is he staying there?"
Harry feels a stirring of doubt by the question. Narcissa's skill in navigating policy loopholes had kept the Malfoy fortune intact despite the Manor being seized in the week following the Battle of Hogwarts, but he finds it hard to believe she'd be foolish enough to plant herself back in public so soon. Yet she had to have found a place for herself and Draco. Harry hadn't been told the details of her death; he only knows that she'd been killed by an assumed friend during afternoon tea.
Killed for helping him escape Voldemort.
Still, even her unforeseen death couldn't explain Draco's current state. Unless there were clauses keeping Draco from his galleons, there were no reasons for Narcissa's beloved son to be wandering the streets filthy and homeless. However, Draco's malnourished, filthy appearance concurred more with the admission of having nowhere to go than with Harry's assumption.
"Not anywhere nice from the look of him," Ron answers first, apparently thinking along the same lines as Harry. He sounds less mocking than before—not quite sympathetic but not as merciless—but then he shrugs his shoulders like he's unsettled by the momentary compassion for his schoolboy rival and adds, "Whatever. Stop worrying about Malfoy. It's not like we have to see the git anymore, right?"
"Er, well, actually…"
"Ronald! There you go again!"
Harry trails off as Hermione begins to argue with Ron on name-calling. It's a perfect time to interrupt and explain that Malfoy will kip on his couch for a bit, until something can be worked out, but he doesn't feel especially compelled to do so. Instead, after a moment of watching their bantering, he shrugs and resumes his lunch.
It's not like he has to tell Ron and Hermione everything.
Harry pauses inside one of the Ministry's apparition cubicles, rolling his sore shoulders as he thinks. Daily routine demands he apparate to just inside his front door. However, it's probable that Malfoy expects him to apparate nearby and walk home, as they had the day before, though that had been to give Malfoy an idea of the area. Nonetheless, Malfoy probably wouldn't enjoy being startled by a sudden appearance; they hadn't discussed schedules yet.
Well, hadn't discussed anything, for that matter.
A loud knock on the cubicle door interrupts Harry's thoughts, a Ministry worker impatient to leave for the day. With a sigh, Harry focuses on the alley he'd taken Malfoy to and turns in place.
The muggle streets are always busy at this time of day. His Uncle Vernon had often complained about evening traffic. Sighing again, Harry casts a quick glamour to hide his robes, making himself look like an evening jogger. At least the disguise would explain away the smell.
A short trek to his building and another creaky elevator ride later finds him pausing again, this time at his front door, momentarily zoning out as he wonders what Malfoy did all day. A night of bad sleep has left his mind is as exhausted as his body. He pushes his glasses up to rub his eyes, and then digs his keys out of his trouser pocket, making sure to unlock and open the door as noisily as possible to alert Malfoy of his return. Hopefully, Malfoy doesn't fancy roaming about naked.
As it turns out, it's a pointlessly loud action; the flat is empty.
"Malfoy?" he calls, moving through the usual habit of losing his shoes, sweat-soaked socks, and outer robe even as he glances around. There's no response and he sees no sign that Malfoy had even been there aside from the neatly folded blanket on the couch. Everything else is unmoved, untouched. Even the extra sandwich he'd made sits in the same spot on the counter in the kitchen, spoiled from having long lost the freshening charm. Harry frowns at it and moves to throw it away, but a small dark spot on the kitchen floor draws his attention.
When he leans down, he realizes that it's the spare key he'd given Malfoy before leaving that morning. He curiously picks it up and turns it over in his hand, wondering how it ended up on the floor of all places. He considers checking it for any residual magic but a thud from the direction of his bedroom interrupts his thoughts.
Setting the key on the counter, he grips his wand and cautiously heads toward the noise, calling again, "Malfoy? You still here?"
He rounds the bedroom door just as Malfoy pops up on the other side and they nearly collide, making them both stumble back a few steps and blink at each other in surprise. Malfoy's hair mats to one side, many fly-away strands sticking out on the other. His eyes look puffy and crusted and the Appleby Arrows pullover he wears is one Harry distinctly remembers seeing on top of the clean laundry pile.
Was he asleep just now? Wait, was he sleeping in my bed? Harry wonders, incredulous. Then Malfoy tugs at the bottom of the pullover to preserve his dignity, making Harry abruptly realize that he's not wearing pants.
Was he sleeping naked in my bed?!
Whatever Malfoy had planned to say and Harry's squawking are both interrupted by Malfoy's loudly growling stomach.
Harry almost laughs at the horrified blush that spreads over Malfoy's cheeks—as though it is shameful for an aristocratic abdomen to make such an appalling sound. He only refrains because, well, it's a reminder that Malfoy really is too thin.
"I'm making dinner," Harry says decisively, indignation having evaporated, and strides purposefully to the kitchen before Malfoy can protest otherwise. Then, remembering how little Malfoy had eaten the previous night, he pauses to ask, "Are there any foods you don't like?"
Malfoy hesitates awkwardly in the bedroom doorway, appearing confused by Harry's question. Then, before Harry can ask again, he darts into the bathroom and closes the door.
"Okay," Harry says slowly to the empty air, perplexed and somewhat offended by Malfoy's abrupt escape. "Leftovers it is."
A quiet scraping noise behind Harry makes him jump. He spins away from the stove, snatching his wand off the counter, but then slumps when he sees that it's only Malfoy standing at the edge of the kitchen. He hadn't heard the bathroom door open.
"Merlin," he grumbles, setting down his wand as he returns to the warming pot of soup. "Make some noise, would you?"
Malfoy doesn't answer, but Harry sees the brief smirk from the corner of his eye. Malfoy now wears the same pajama bottoms from the night before, clearly having left them in the bathroom—which reminds Harry that apparently Malfoy did indeed enjoy strutting about without a stitch of clothing. He shudders when he remembers his poor bed and glances at Malfoy with a mild glare. Malfoy doesn't notice; his eyes are on the brass key he's taken from the counter.
"The soup's warm enough," Harry says, turning off the burner with a click of the knob.
"Ah!" Malfoy gasps, startling Harry and almost causing him to drop the pot he'd picked up. "How did you—without magic—"
Malfoy abruptly cuts off and frowns at Harry reproachfully, as though it is Harry's fault that he should be interested in the stove. It's almost strange to hear him speak naturally again.
"It's a regular gas stove," Harry answers with a shrug, eyebrows lifting when Malfoy inquisitively studies the stove like he has never seen one before now.
Catching Harry's stare, Malfoy scowls, muttering, "I didn't think they looked like that is all. I thought they were… bigger."
"What? Stoves?" Harry asks, baffled. When Malfoy's scowl darkens, he can't help but gawp incredulously. "Bigger? Maybe back in the eighteenth century? You've never, what? Been in a kitchen before?"
"What reason could I possibly have to enter a kitchen?" Malfoy sneers, drawing back defensively.
A humorless bark of laughter escapes Harry and he gapes at Malfoy. How could someone be that unfamiliar with a kitchen? To not even know the look of a modern stove? Then he remembers house-elves, a sharp pang in his chest when he thinks of one in particular with connections to the Malfoys. The Manor must have been similar to that of Hogwarts: go to the dining room and the food appears, cooked and ready to be eaten. Or perhaps the house-elves had catered the food to the table like the slaves the Malfoys saw them as.
Such a princess, Harry thinks, glaring at Malfoy.
"Forget it," Malfoy growls roughly, as if reading Harry's mind, and spins on his heel.
"The soup's ready!" Harry yells at him angrily.
"I don't want any!" Malfoy shouts back and darts once more into the bathroom. He tries to shove the door closed—most likely hoping for an anger-displaying slam—but its hinges are springy and it simply rebounds back at him and he has to grab it and close it carefully, effectively ruining his show of temper. A second later, the shower starts to run.
Harry gawks at the closed bathroom door, then scowls and slams the pot back on the stove.
The soup sloshes out and burns his hand.
At some point in the night, Harry hears the shuffling of blankets and then the soft thumps of feet on carpet as Malfoy tip-toes to the kitchen. The pot of soup is probably cool by now but Harry'd left it under a preserving charm to prevent spoiling. He'd been tempted to put the whole thing away, but had then thought of Malfoy's sagging skin and bony shoulders—he shouldn't let Malfoy starve just because they couldn't get along for more than a minute.
Strangely enough, Harry finds it easy to fall asleep to the sound of Malfoy rummaging through the drawers for a spoon.
"Potter, I need a toothbrush."
Harry jumps in surprise at the quiet statement, not having thought Malfoy awake—or wanting to act awake, at the very least. He turns to see Malfoy's eyes just peeking over the edge of the blanket, half-open and hazy with sleep.
"Um, there's a store on the corner—"
"I don't have muggle money," Malfoy mutters. He shifts under the blanket and struggles to sit up, briefly ducking back down to hide an undignified yawn.
"Well, I gave you my key so you can always—"
"No," Malfoy interrupts. His voice is firm though it still holds a tone of quiet defeat rather than the commanding air Harry remembers from Hogwarts. He sighs and draws his legs up, stretching over them the Arrows pullover. He rests his chin on the extended fabric and glares halfheartedly at Harry. "Just buy one with anti-plaque charms while you're out today. I'll reimburse you the knut it'll cost."
Harry nods and finishes pulling on his trainers. "Anything else you want me to grab while I'm out?" he asks, ignoring the small voice in his head that demands he not to encourage Malfoy to stay—it sounds like a young, petulant Ron.
"Floss would be nice," Malfoy answers, though he looks like he wants to say more but isn't sure how to say it.
Oh god, Harry thinks, mortified, What if he wants me to buy him pants?
Malfoy starts to unfold and lie down, but then pops back up and adds, "No toothbrushes with flat bristles, okay? It doesn't feel right."
"Um, okay," Harry says, uncertain what Malfoy even means by that. Flat bristles? Like on the brush? His own toothbrush had flat bris—wait. Wait. "Malfoy. Did you… You didn't use my toothbrush yesterday… did you?"
Malfoy stares expressionlessly for a long minute and then casually rolls over so that his back is facing Harry. Muffled by the blanket and the back of the couch, he scoffs, "Don't be disgusting."
Harry sends Malfoy and bathroom both skeptical glares. Just before he apparates, he runs his tongue along the backs of his teeth, telling himself that the sudden strange taste in his mouth is only a figment of his imagination, not the lingering flavor of Malfoy.
"This does not appear difficult," Malfoy says a couple days later as he watches Harry gather food for a simple dinner. He fiddles with the cuff of the long-sleeved, faded old shirt he wears, twisting it tighter and tighter around his wrist, holding, and then untwisting, only to repeat the action again a few seconds later. Fidgety.
I hope he's not wearing my pants, too, Harry thinks with a grimace, eyes drifting down to his trousers sagging low on Malfoy's scrawny hips. Not that he wants Malfoy walking around bold shogun either. Although, Malfoy wearing muggle clothes is an odd enough sight in of itself.
"Not difficult at all," Harry mildly agrees to Malfoy's statement, "Much easier than Potions anyway."
Malfoy scoffs softly but his expression is light, so focused he is on Harry's cooking technique.
Full meals have done a lot for Malfoy's appearance in the four nights that he has camped on Harry's couch. Of course he is still too thin, too bony—that will take weeks, not days—but his skin is already a healthier color and his eyes no longer look sunken or bruised. With a little more time to reach a normal weight, Harry imagines that Malfoy could have possibly grown to be quite handsome during seventh year.
He'd always be a pointy git.
Not that it matters to Harry—though it would be nice if Malfoy stopped strolling round his flat starkers while he's gone.
Not that he has proof that Malfoy has done so since that first day; it's just a likely conclusion.
Did it once, will do it again.
It is Malfoy, after all.
"What?" Malfoy demands suddenly, expression wary.
Harry blushes and turns back to the cooking, not having meant to stare. "Nothing."
Malfoy rolls his shoulders as though Harry's eyes have left a lingering physical touch and then turns and disappears into the bathroom—his sanctuary when things get too awkward between them. This, naturally, reminds Harry of sixth year and of Malfoy crying and then bleeding into overflowing water on dingy tiles, of Moaning Myrtle's shrieking bringing Snape, then Snape on the Astronomy Tower with Dumbledore, whose wand was taken by Malfoy, the wand that they all shared—
It is easiest to simply ignore Malfoy when he hides in the bathroom.
"Er, so how's Parkin—um, Pansy?" Harry asks on Saturday. So far, he and Malfoy have managed to politely avoid one another for most of the morning, with Harry reading training manuals in his bedroom and Malfoy lounging on the balcony despite the autumn chill already present. But then Harry went and made sandwiches, had suggested that Malfoy join him for lunch at the small table in the dining nook. He'd been surprised when Malfoy actually did.
At Harry's question, Malfoy's eyes dart up from his sandwich for a moment before slowly drifting back down. His lips are tinged blue and his nose red from having sat outside through the cool morning.
"She's… fine," Malfoy answers quietly, and then begins to rip at his sandwich crust a bit aggressively.
"Oh." Harry eyes Malfoy's fingernails, noticing how trimmed and clean they are even as they tear through the bread. "See her, um, often?"
"I certainly hope no one has seen me recently," Malfoy grumbles darkly. He stills for a breath but then quickly pushes away the half-eaten sandwich with its shredded crust. When he carefully folds his arms over his chest, wincing only slightly, the cuffs of Harry's button-up that he wears ride up his longer arms, showing a small amount of burned skin on his left wrist. He looks anywhere but at Harry—looks, to Harry's extreme discomfort, like he might even cry. "I haven't seen anyone from Hogwarts since— Since my mother… You and your weasel are it."
"I—oh." Harry licks his lips, frantically wondering how to change the subject.
"Is this interrogation practice or something?" Malfoy snaps then, glaring at Harry.
Harry shifts in his chair and tries to return the glare, but his unease makes him more embarrassed than angry. Still, he manages to snap back, "Sorry, it's just that I can't help but wonder why you've been sleeping on my couch all week. Why aren't you staying with a friend?"
Malfoy's glare immediately falls from Harry to where the carpet frays along the baseboard.
"Do you want me to leave?" he asks.
Harry exhales heavily and drops his own sandwich on its plate. He tries to catch Malfoy's eye, but Malfoy refuses to look up, instead staring obstinately at the carpet. Pushing his own plate away, he says, "It's not that. It's just, I mean, I don't understand why you're here."
"Because you offered to let me stay," Malfoy grumbles sourly. "I thought we'd already discussed this."
"We haven't discussed anything."
"You are the one who didn't want to talk about it."
"I said I didn't want to talk about it right then," Harry argues and finally Malfoy glares at him again. "You said you haven't anywhere else to go, but—"
"That's not— I do have somewhere to go," Malfoy interrupts softly. "I just can't get there anymore."
Malfoy grimaces. "The only way to enter is by apparition."
Harry stares, waiting for Malfoy to continue. When he doesn't, Harry prompts, "Then what's the problem?"
"…I don't have a wand," Malfoy admits bitterly.
Harry frowns. "I gave you back your wand."
"Yes, you did," Malfoy bites, pushing his chair away from the table as though needing more room between them, more room to breathe. He looks like he might sick up. "And I— It was… snapped."
The blood pounds in Harry's ears, blocking out oppressive silence that immediately settles between them, leaving only Malfoy's voice echoing in his head.
The hawthorn wand—snapped!
Harry swallows the lump in his throat and wishes he'd noticed Malfoy not using any magic that week.
"I— I don't understand," he stammers. "You were pardoned. The Ministry…"
Malfoy's eyes are closed and, for the first time, Harry notices that those walls he's built around himself have begun to waver.
"It wasn't the Ministry," he says quietly.
"Who snapped it?" Harry asks, and then promptly winces at his own blunt question.
Malfoy never answers. Instead, he rises from his chair and quickly strides to the balcony.
The balcony has a more satisfying door slam than the bathroom.
Malfoy doesn't come back inside for the rest of the day. Likewise, Harry keeps to his bedroom all afternoon, only making brief ventures to sneak peeks at the stiff figure on the balcony. When evening rolls around, Harry eats dinner alone. Malfoy doesn't bother to join him a second time—only gives Harry a withering look at the tentative suggestion and then pointedly returns his attention to the muggles on the street below.
As he had the night before, Harry finds himself sleepless—listening—and he only relaxes into his pillows when he hears the balcony door quietly slide open then closed and Malfoy's soft steps to where the food waits under charm on the kitchen counter.
"You seem distracted today, Harry."
Harry blinks, the hand holding a foam triangle now hovering in midair over the wreckage of his once block castle. So lost in thought, he'd entirely missed the playful swipe from rambunctious godson.
"Er," he says, briefly watching Teddy squeal in delight at the foam destruction before lowering his hand and facing Andromeda, "Yeah, I guess. Yeah…"
Aside from an artfully lifted eyebrow, her expression remains neutral as she sips her morning tea.
"Well," Harry quickly continues, somehow feeling a heavy pressure under her silence, "I've been… um, busy, so I've a lot on my mind, you know? With, er, Auror training and all."
"I see," Andromeda murmurs. She sets the tea cup on its saucer with a gentle click—much nicer than the loud clatters with which Harry handled the chinaware. The action is fluid and calm and she leans back against the chaise in a comfortable manner, yet there is a commanding air about her. Her continued silence, it seems, demands a better explanation.
"Draco Malfoy is staying with me," Harry rushes in one quick breath, and then winces.
This, at least, warrants two raised brows.
"I see," she repeats in the same composed tone.
"It's just, he looked terrible," Harry hurries to explain, "and I couldn't just leave him in Diagon with those wizards yelling at him, so he came back to the Ministry with me and Ron, but then he didn't have anywhere to go and I thought it'd be all right if he slept on my couch or whatever but he hasn't left yet and it's been a week, but yesterday he said he does have somewhere to go but his wand's snapped but he wouldn't say who snapped it and he was mad at me all day just for asking, and he acts like he doesn’t want to eat even though he looks like he'll fall apart 'cause he's so thin but I know he sneaks food at night, but he didn't even know what a stove looked like and he watches me all the time when I cook, which is just creepy, and I don't really know what to do with him, and just—argh!"
Harry throws his hands over his burning face. Sometime during his embarrassing spiel Andromeda had calmly returned to her tea. It never ceases to amaze him how she can pull so much from him with only a few simple words. Even Teddy has stopped playing during his rant to stare, though with the blank innocence of a toddler not fully understanding the conversation.
"The two of you argue?" Andromeda finally asks after a long minute.
"Every time we talk," Harry admits, lowering his hands but not meeting her dark eyes.
"Then keep talking. You'll wear out yourselves eventually," she advises and the small smirk behind her tea cup is evidence of her Slytherin heritage. "Perhaps Draco needs something to occupy his mind and time. Stewing about all day clearly does little to improve his disposition."
Harry nods, wondering what Malfoy did in his flat besides watching muggles from the balcony. What else could Malfoy do all day? Paint? He frowns. "Should I ask him if there's something he wants?"
The look Andromeda gives him is akin to the disappointed one Professor McGonagall used to give when a student answered wrong a simple question.
"A noticeable interest will appear to you in due time," she answers before rising to her feet with a grace that had never passed to her daughter. The second she stands, Teddy's hands make grabby claws at her and he grunts demanding little noises mixed with the occasional toddler-chipped word. She obligingly picks him up and his hair immediately turns dark and wavy to match hers. Her smile for him is small and brief but bursting with affection.
Adjusting Teddy in her arms, she addresses Harry again, "I believe Molly and Arthur will be expecting us soon. Shall we?"
As they prepare to floo to The Burrow for the usual Sunday lunch, Harry realizes that, despite the kind, sympathetic words spared for her nephew at Narcissa's funeral, Andromeda hadn't offered to let Draco stay in her much larger, wizarding home.
That evening, Harry finds a stack of leftovers being shoved into his arms.
"Here, Harry dear," Molly says, adding another square container on top, "Why don't you take some home with you, hm?"
He clumsily grasps at his armload but smiles a truly grateful smile at her. "Thanks Mrs. Weasley." She'd given him enough food to feed eight people—or, more importantly, to last two people four days.
"Well, of course! The way those Aurors treat their trainees—shameful! How they can possibly expect you boys to eat when they exhaust you to the bone every day!" she mothers, even going so far as to wipe a smudge of mud—remnant of a fierce afternoon quidditch match—from his cheek.
"If you keep feeding him, he'll never learn to cook for himself, Mum," Ginny says, appearing from behind Harry, grinning, flowery, and still a little windswept. She pokes at the top container wickedly, acting as though she means to push it free. "This'll all go bad before he can eat it."
"I'll eat it," Harry assures her, returning the grin. "And I can cook. I just, you know, don't."
Unless I have to feed a hungry Malfoy, he thinks with a small cringe.
"Oh, can you?" Ginny asks, and her tone is teasing but the way she suddenly flutters her eyelashes takes him aback. It's a habit he expects from Lavender Brown but certainly not from Ginny—never tomboy Ginny. Her grin falters as she notices his confusion.
"Perhaps all he needs is someone to cook for him, sweetheart," Molly interjects. She smiles a warm but pointed smile at them both, not aware of the sudden awkwardness that has arisen.
"That'd be lazy of him," Ginny mumbles, a faint hint of pink in her cheeks, but she abruptly brightens and grins at Harry again, more in the feisty way that she does during quidditch rather than the coy look from a minute prior. "Well, if you're already a cook, then show up early sometime and make us all lunch!"
Harry laughs at her normal teasing and pushes away thoughts of those girly fluttering eyelashes with a sense of relief. "I could, but it'd be basic stuff. I don't know any real recipes, nothing complicated."
"Well, you already have so much to do. Leave learning to cook to those who waste all day flitting about on their broomsticks," Molly says, and this time the pointed look is meant for her daughter alone.
Ginny's face erupts in flames. "I've told you, I want to play professionally!"
"Yes, yes, of course," Molly's voice is full of doubt and frustration, "but even professionals need to have other priorities, too, dear. You can't always occupy your mind and time with quidditch, especially when you decide to start a family of your own. You'll need to take care of them, won't you?"
Molly's quick glance at Harry as she mentions Ginny's future family makes him uncomfortable, but then he catches the other part of the statement. Hadn't Andromeda said something similar to that?
"Perhaps Draco needs something to occupy his mind and time. Stewing about all day clearly does nothing to improve his disposition. A noticeable interest will appear to you in due time."
"—and he watches me all the time when I cook, which is just creepy—!"
"Er, actually Mrs. Weasley," Harry says, interrupting the growing argument between mother and daughter, "Do you have any cookbooks or old recipes that I could borrow? I think it'd be, uh, fun to learn more… or something."
Molly smiles uncertainly. "But Harry, you're so busy. You must be so tired when you get home. Ron—"
"Not all the time," Harry quickly lies. At her dubious look he adds, "I mean, most days, yeah, but sometimes I need a break from studying Auror stuff at night, you know?"
"Merlin's beard, Mum! There's nothing wrong with a man learning to cook!" Ginny barks out, fists clenched at her side in anger.
Harry quickly ducks his head to hide his grin. Ginny always looked so strong when she was angry. He wonders if that had been what had attracted him to her.
The grin drops away and Harry shifts uneasily at the thought.
Unmindful to Harry's growing uncertainty, Molly stammers, "Oh course there isn't— I just thought perhaps— I never said that there was!" Her own face flushes a hot red to match Ginny's before she harrumphs and spins on her heel to dig through a nearby cupboard.
A moment later, three large cookbooks heavily land on top of Harry's already bulky armful.
The cookbooks sit untouched on the counter for two days after Harry sets them there. Malfoy's even stopped watching him cook in the evenings, though Harry doesn't know if that's because reheating leftovers isn't much to watch or because Malfoy is still avoiding him over Saturday's lunch failure. Either way, Harry goes to sleep Tuesday night wondering if he'd misjudged Malfoy's interest.
On Wednesday, his apparition home is greeted by a loud crashing noise from the kitchen. His body jerks into a defense ready position before his mind can catch up—due to Auror training or years of paranoia, he'll never know—but it's only Malfoy who appears around the counter. Malfoy holds one of the cookbooks open to his chest in a protective manner and, as soon as he sees Harry's pointed wand, his grip on the book tightens enough that the tendons define on the back on his bony hand in thin ridges.
Harry quickly lowers his wand. "Er, sorry. I thought… You startled me."
Malfoy flushes, bright splotches of red on his pasty white cheeks, and looks for all the world as though he had been doing something highly inappropriate and possibly illegal before Harry had appeared.
Oddly, the thought of Malfoy prancing around the flat, gloriously naked, pops to the forefront of Harry's mind.
"You do not have all of the appropriate materials that are required by this manual," Malfoy says roughly. At Harry's confused look, he jerks his chin toward the cookbook in his hands to indicate it without taking his eyes off Harry. "You’re not fully stocked to complete any of these methods, nor do you have all of the necessary apparatuses."
Harry stares at him for a moment before leaning forward to peer into the kitchen over the half-walled counter. Malfoy flinches, obviously not wanting Harry to look, but the small action only makes Harry all the more curious.
Pots, pans, and cooking utensils line the counters in neat rows, grouped by like items and arranged by size; all of the cabinets are open and the dry food within sorted in a similar manner to the cookware; even the unplugged refrigerator and attached freezer are open to display their now-organized contents.
Harry blinks at it all. "…Oh."
The sound of something slamming makes Harry jump, and he turns back to see Malfoy toss the now closed cookbook onto the table to join the other two.
"I didn't— I wasn't— You're back early—" Malfoy stammers, hurrying to put away all of the items he has pulled from the cabinets and drawers. In his rush, he accidentally elbows a stack of pots and it tips over the edge of the counter. The pots hit the floor in a succession of loud crashes that causes them both to wince.
Malfoy's expression morphs from horrified embarrassment to miserable, angry defeat as he leans over the pick up the mess.
"No, it's fine," Harry rushed to assure. At Malfoy's sharp look of doubt, he adds, "No, really, it's fine! I, er, I mean, I brought those cookbooks back for, well, you, so… I mean, you know, you can—" he gestures to the organized clutter of his kitchen and the rolling pots on the floor, "—all you want. If you want. You know, to learn, to give you something to do, or… whatever." Harry feels his own cheeks warm. "I thought you might be interested is all."
Malfoy's eyes widen at the admission, but it only takes two blinks for him to return to guarded and they are back to staring at one another.
"You do not have all the items required in those manuals," Malfoy repeats after an uncomfortable minute.
"Uh, yeah, you could just—" Harry cuts off, remembering Malfoy's insistence that he be the one to buy a toothbrush. He runs a hand through his hair, grimacing at the oiliness that sweat from training has left behind, and glances at the cookbooks on the table. With a small sigh, he meets Malfoy's cautious eyes again. "Why don't you make a list of what you need? I'll pick everything up on my way back tomorrow."
For a fleeting moment, Malfoy appears taken aback, but then he hesitantly nods and loosens his grip on the frying pan he holds; Harry's only just noticed it and wonders which window his defensive Auror awareness had flown out.
The list Malfoy gives Harry the next morning is four columns of tiny, perfectly precise handwriting somehow crammed in a beautiful way onto a foot long parchment. Merlin, but only Malfoy could have such prissy writing.
Harry reads through the list, occasionally appalled and sending Malfoy flat looks over some of the items. "You do not need 'colorful egg cups shaped like octopi.'"
"The manual calls for them in a certain procedure," Malfoy sniffs.
Harry rolls his eyes. "Listen, it's a cookbook, and it probably suggests them, but that doesn't mean—"
"I am the one paying, so you have no right to—"
"Yeah, but I am the one who has to carry it all back, so I have every right to—"
"You have a wand, Potter. Use your little brain to figure out how to use it," Malfoy hisses, and stomps out to the balcony, slamming the door closed between them—the ability to slam a door in frustration encouraging him more to the balcony than the bathroom as of late.
Harry sighs, knowing that he should have just taken the list without complaint, colorful octopi egg cups and all.
"The cabinets and drawers need expanding," Malfoy says that evening, his mood considerably brighter once Harry dutifully returns with arms full of food filled paper bags and pockets laden with shrunken bake- and cookware and various utensils and cutlery (and the promise of more via owl that had to be ordered special—specifically, egg cups shaped like octopi).
Malfoy almost appears excited as he organizes his new acquisitions—a big difference and definite improvement from the bitter scowls and morose frowns of the week prior. He is certainly more attractive when he's happy, Harry notices. Although, Harry quickly comes to understand that an excited Malfoy means an arrogant Malfoy, so he's not so sure this is an improvement.
"That big white cupboard, too, if you will. Now would be best."
Harry groans quietly and rises to his aching feet from where he had slumped at the table. He steps around the stack of new pans waiting to be put away and tiredly waves his wand in the direction of the nearest cabinet. It hums for a moment and then, to his surprise, the wood turns rubbery and droops downward in the center.
"Er," he says, and Malfoy arches an eyebrow. It's such a perfect imitation of Andromeda that it throws Harry for a second. He quickly shakes his head to clear the thought and waves his wand again, but the second attempt is worse that the first. Sap forms from the rubbery wood and drips in large drops that seem to hang forever before finally reaching the counter.
Harry hastily tries to explain, "Um, it's only that I've never—"
"Oh just let me do it," Malfoy snaps and impatiently holds out his hand for Harry's wand.
They both freeze.
Malfoy, it seems, is just as shocked by the demand as Harry, clearly having acted without thinking. His fingers slowly curl closed and then he is quickly pulling his hand back, shoulders tensing in anticipation of anger.
Anger that, strangely, Harry doesn't feel. Instead, he feels outside of his own body as he merely lifts his wand, pauses, and then holds it out for Malfoy to take. Their eyes meet with shared uncertainty but then Malfoy cautiously, hesitantly, gently takes the holly wand—Harry's wand. He doesn't quite move his hand away at first, as if positive that Harry will snatch it back. When no such action arises, he finally closes his fingers around it more firmly and then rolls it carefully in his palm as if to get a feel for it.
Harry hovers a little closer, though he's amazed to find it's more due to curiosity than to any apprehension. Malfoy watches Harry from the corner of his eye even as he swallows nervously and directs the wand toward the cabinets.
A quick flick and the rubbery, sappy cupboard returns to normal; a few smooth swishes and a wave of bright magic descends over the kitchen in a sparkly roll. Pops and scrapes sound, though nothing appears to change. When all is quiet, the kitchen looks no different than it had seconds before.
Harry walks over to a cabinet and opens it, eyebrows rising in admiration at the spacious, clean interior. He looks back at Malfoy with a small smile.
"I did get Os in Charms and Transfiguration," Malfoy says quietly, albeit haughtily. He shifts awkwardly on his feet and then holds the wand out for Harry to take back, as if wanting to be rid of it as soon as possible.
The second exchange is quicker than the first and Harry wonders at the warmth he feels in the magic when they are connected by the wand for a brief moment. It reminds him of when he first held Malfoy's hawthorn wand.
"Well, I'll, er, leave you to it then," he says, gesturing to the kitchenware.
Malfoy waves his hand, turning his back on Harry to re-organize his fancy new spatulas, but the light blush in his cheeks lets Harry know that he's more flustered at the unexpected wand hand-off than he wants to let on. Harry smiles and ducks into the bedroom to give him some space.